Manuscripts Don’t Burn
Directed by Mohammad Rasoulof
Cornerhouse, 14 September 2014
Despite a low key, naturalistic directorial style this is in places a terrifying film.
For much of the time it follows two state agents as they seek out copies of a manuscript which their boss wants to destroy. Banal, everyday actions occur within scenes where you are virtually watching a man die. The actors portray men who have killed before and will do so again. For them, it’s not theatre – a beheading to be placed on social media – but just a job. It is surprising, in fact, that the film has just a 15 certificate.
With regard to the story behind the making of the film, there’s no doubt that this is a valuable document of the kind of terror, oppression and censorship happening now in Iran. What I’d stress, however, is that it’s also a supremely crafted film: the director has a sure touch and the actors – both cast and crew are unnamed, in order to grant them a measure of protection – give splendid performances. A comparison with The Lives of Others is inevitable – it is that good.